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Walker v. United States

February 29, 2008

NANCY WALKER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

I. BACKGROUND

This matter involves a quiet title action filed against the United States. Plaintiff, Nancy Walker, alleges that the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") issued assessments against her and her husband, Joseph T. Walker, on July 30, 1996, for unpaid income taxes and related interest and penalties for tax years 1978 to 1981. By operation of 26 U.S.C. § 6321, on the day the assessments were made federal tax liens also arose and attached to all of plaintiff's property and rights to that property. In 1997, the IRS filed notices of federal tax liens against the Walkers. The notices of federal tax liens protect the government from third-party claims against the Walkers' property in accordance with the provisions of Section 6323 of the Code. The notices do not affect the statutory liens that arose automatically against the Walkers.*fn1

On or about April 21, 2002 and May 16, 2002, the IRS issued Certificates of Release of Federal Tax Liens, Forms 668, as to plaintiff Nancy Walker. In accordance with 26 U.S.C. § 6015, the effect of the certificates was to release the lien previously imposed against Ms. Walker's interest in her property for the tax years 1978-1981. Notwithstanding the release of the liens, sometime after 2002, IRS Revenue Officer, Franklin D. Clark, engaged in efforts to collect the obligations associated with the previously released tax liens. In or about April 2004, Mr. Clark was advised by counsel for Ms. Walker that the liens were released and, therefore, no tax obligation existed.

A few months later, on June 4, 2004, the IRS issued notices of federal tax liens against Nancy Walker for the tax years 1978-1981, relating to the tax liability that had previously been released. It was determined by the IRS that the certificates filed in 2002 releasing Ms. Walker from the 1979-1981 tax liability had been filed in error. The government states that the IRS meant to release only the fraud penalties assessed against Ms. Walker, but instead inadvertently released the entire lien. Although the IRS re-filed the notices of tax liens approximately two years after it erroneously released the liens, the government admits that the re-filed notices were "ineffective in countering the releases for 1979 through 1981." Accordingly, in May 2005, the IRS filed Revocations of Release of Federal Tax Lien, Forms 12474, which were recorded in Atlantic and Cape May counties where plaintiff owns real property. The revocations were filed within the ten year statute of limitations on collection of the liabilities assessed on July 30, 1996.*fn2

Before the Court is defendant's third motion for summary judgment.*fn3 In its motion, the government argues that the revocations of release issued in 2005 were effective in countering the releases and reinstating the tax lien and underlying tax liability against Ms. Walker. Conversely, Ms. Walker argues that the release of tax liens in 2002 was proper because she is entitled to joint and several liability and/or to "innocent spouse" relief; that the declaration of the IRS revenue officer was factually incorrect; that the revocations of release are not valid because the IRS failed to follow the statutory notice requirements of 26 U.S.C. § 6325(f)(2)(A), and because she informed the IRS about the release of the liens and filed her complaint almost six months before the IRS filed the revocations.

II. JURISDICTION

This Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1340 (providing for original jurisdiction over a civil action arising under any Act of Congress providing for internal revenue) and 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(1) (providing for original jurisdiction over any civil action against the United States for the recovery of any internal-revenue tax alleged to have been erroneously or illegally assessed or collected).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.

An issue is "genuine" if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Marino v. Industrial Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004)(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. A party opposing summary ...


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